May 23, 2022 - Technology

A video game from Mexico imagines a different kind of future

Video game screenshot of a woman flying toward the camera, with a futuristic Aztec pyramid in the background
Screenshot: Lienzo

The creators of the action game Aztech built their unusual virtual world with a simple premise: What would have happened if the Aztecs hadn’t been conquered?

Why it matters: Aztech is an ambitious game from a small team in Mexico, a part of the world that has little representation in the industry and its culture.

  • Released in March for PC and console, Aztech: Forgotten Gods puts the players in control of Achtli, a young woman with a magical arm that enables her to fly over a futuristic Mesoamerican megacity and battle the gods.
  • In a medium filled with adventures inspired by Anglo-Saxon and east Asian cultures, it stands out.

What they’re saying: “We aspire to be the voice of our people,” Edgar Serrano, cofounder of Chihuahua-based studio Lienzo, told Axios earlier this spring, shortly after the game’s release.

  • The studio started a decade ago, mixing contract work with original projects.
  • Its 2018 release Mulaka was an action game set amid the mythology of the Tarahumara, an Indigenous culture in Mexico. The game was narrated in the Tarahumara language, and hewed close to historical traditions.
  • Aztech began as an attempt to make something more fantastical while indulging the fantasy of an Aztec empire that spread across the Americas.

Lienzo’s games can reach three key audiences, Serrano believes:

  • Local players, like the young Indigenous people he met while making Mulaka, who he said knew little about their own legends.
  • The Latin American diaspora in the U.S. and elsewhere, who he believes are yearning for work that helps them reconnect to their roots.
  • The wider — and often whiter — world of people he believes seek some level of “social currency” in understanding other cultures. “If you play our games throughout, you're going to end up knowing a lot more than you knew before about our culture. And the things that stay with you are going to be true and authentic and researched.”

Between the lines: Serrano is quick to point out that Aztech isn’t perfect. He calls it “over-scoped,” perhaps biting off too much.

  • He’s still proud of the game and hopeful what Lienzo’s team of about seven developers can build in the future.

What’s next: He’s dreaming of a movie. Serrano has partnered with a production company to shop Aztech to Hollywood.

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